User Un-Friendly

Some companies don’t understand the crap they put their customers through. As part of a general tech meltdown I’ve been experiencing lately, an external Maxtor hard drive I used for backup zonked out on me after eight months. Since it was still under warranty, I foraged online for details to return the unit for a replacement. A few clicks on Maxtor led me to Seagate warranty support, because “As of December 9th, 2006 warranty services for all Maxtor products are now fully supported through Seagate’s warranty services.” Forty-five minutes later, following multiple page time-outs and resubmissions of my product information, I was plopped into a return system that was clearly designed for Seagate’s high-volume channel partners and corporate customers.

First I had to verify that the drive was still under warranty. Then I had to request an RMA (return material authorisation <sic>). Then I had to wait for RMA approval (requiring two email confirmations, one that the request had been received, another that it had been approved). Then I had to package and ship the product back – on my own dime of course. I was instructed to closely follow these shipping instructions or risk voiding my warranty:

  • Use original packaging when possible. [I tossed the box long ago.]
  • You can find packaging supplier(s) at our Packaging Information page.
  • Enclose each drive in a SeaShell container or an ESD (electrostatic discharge) bag. If packaging more than one drive, use a separate container for each drive.
  • Enclose the static-protected drive(s) in 2-inch foam rubber in a corrugated box. Multiple drives in a single box must have foam rubber between each drive. DO NOT USE foam packing pellets, bubble wrap, or newspaper.
  • Warranty is void if the SeaShield cover or top cover, or any seal or label is removed or damaged, if it is improperly packaged, or if the drive experiences shock in excess of its Gs rating.

I clicked on another link for “more packing information for consumers and resellers” and was presented with a 15-page PDF with helpful schematics for shipping items such as a 20-pack of 3.5-inch drives “with desiccant and moisture barrier bag” – in other words, nothing remotely resembling my Maxtor external drive. 

Helpful packing schematic 

Dead end. I shoved the drive in a recycled box with some foam padding pulled from my daughter’s recent iPod shipment (another replacement for failed hardware). No electrostatic bag, just taped it up tight and hoped for the best.

A few days passed, and I went back to the site, armed with my RMA, to check on the status. I was routed to a trouble ticket with 49 freakin’ categories – ranging from “ARO credit status” to “qty RUR’d” to “receiving disposition.” [I tried to reproduce it here but couldn’t figure out how to embed a table without blowing out the margins.]

The irony is, I think Seagate actually shipped a replacement. The “ship status” field said “complete” and the “receipt due date” said “2/9/07.” Will be interesting to see what I actually get in return. Perhaps a 20-pack of 3.5-inch drives wrapped in a desiccant and moisture-barrier bag?

Here’s my point: If Seagate wants to play nice in the consumer space, it had better learn the difference between Joe Consumer and Acme OEM.


6 thoughts on “User Un-Friendly”

  1. Amen to that RobO. customer service stinks and is only getting worse. recently i had a problem with my 3-yr old iPod. i called tech support and was told it was out of warranty and too bad for me. i was desperate so i offered to BUY a service contract ($59 for two years). nope…i can’t even buy help from Apple. they couldn’t tell me why. they told me to go to my local genius bar. btw, if apple products are so damn easy to use, why is the genius bar at my local apple store always packed 3 deep???

  2. The Era of Customer Service has been dead for a good while, I think.

    Apple has a quick-response guarantee on support emails. When my iTunes ceased to play music I had purchased, I sent in a question. What I got back (right on their self-imposed deadline) was a FAQ. I can’t decide whether that’s better than silence or not. The FAQ was completely irrelevant. I imagine some poor fella (or program) in their support department playing beat the clock, scanning emails and firing off whichever standard document has a few of the same keywords.

    Don’t even get me started on the difficulty of communicating with my bank’s offshore call center employees.

  3. I’m trying to upgrade to vista on a new computer and the Zombies at Moduslink keep replying to my emails with automated messages telling me I need to submit information I’ve sent to them in the previous email. I can’t help but think of the Monty Python style reply “You don’t really have any software, do you?”

    Funny how the web has caused some truly heinous customer service nightmares

  4. Poor – and inexpensive – customer service may be a strategically sound business decision, given the fact that consumers jump to the next new thing regardless of how well the company has handled their service issues. To wit, I wouldn’t rank Apple as one of the best.

    P.S. Good to see you blogging Rob! 😉

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